VP debate pits Catholic against Catholic

Melinda Hennenberger presents an excellent piece at washingtonpost.com analyzing how Joe Biden and Paul Ryan incorporate their Catholic faith very differently when it comes to public policy -- most notably on abortion.


She writes that the two men "almost perfectly embody the split in the American church as well as in American politics, with Biden representing the old-school, union-tied, Vatican II generation of Kennedy-loving Catholics whose focus is social justice and who are comfortable with questioning. ... Ryan, meanwhile, upholds the younger, more conservative, John Paul II-era, anti-abortion-focused Catholicism of the sonogram generation." She continues:

What Biden could learn from Ryan is that the vice president’s insistence that he doesn’t want to impose his morality on anybody in a pluralistic country doesn’t really track; the Civil Rights Act imposed morality on lots of people who wanted no part of it, and thank goodness. And same-sex marriage is doing the same, isn’t it?

What Ryan could learn from Biden is that the leading cause of abortion in this country is poverty; once you recognize that cutting Medicaid would surely increase the number of financially struggling women who’d opt to have the procedure, the Catholic calculus even on that one issue isn’t so clear any more.

Many Catholics stick with the Republicans because they keep promising to overturn Roe v. Wade, but they don’t ever deliver on that promise, and won’t. As even strongly pro-choice Nancy Pelosi told me recently, “Let’s face it, the Republicans have had the House, Senate and White House any number of times; they could have overturned Roe and they didn’t.’’

She’s right about that. And Catholic leaders such as Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., who recently wrote on the subject of abortion and the upcoming election that “a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil . . . places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy” might consider whether 40 more years of supporting Republicans would bring any different result.

Read her full post here.

Comments (5)

What Biden could learn from Ryan is that the vice president’s insistence that he doesn’t want to impose his morality on anybody in a pluralistic country doesn’t really track; the Civil Rights Act imposed morality on lots of people who wanted no part of it, and thank goodness. And same-sex marriage is doing the same, isn’t it?

It's arguable that the Civil Rights Act "imposed morality" (you want to run a "White's Only" establishment? Just make it your dinner table: no business license necessary).

It's a ridiculous (homophobic) CANARD to suggest same-sex marriage does!

JC Fisher

@JC Fisher, I had to read the paragraph a couple of times to get past my prejudgment.

Yes, thank goodness the Civil Rights Act imposed morality. Just as the opponents of civil rights imposed their view of morality - the races should be segregated.

What Hennenberger hears Biden claiming is that he isn't trying to impose his morality, only the opponents of, say, abortion are. But each is imposing a moral view. No?

I happen to support marriage equality by the way, and don't defend Ryan on this issue.

It just occurred to me that our last Episcopalian Vice President was George H. W. Bush.

Slightly off topic but...
Erik Campano

I am disturbed that someone would accept the notion that human and civil rights are basically an "opinion".

That strikes me as someone who has not done much serious reading and thinking on the matter. Her moral compass could very well point according to the latest breeze.

Kevin McGrane

I think what Biden said was that he wouldn't impose his religion, wasn't it? Morality and religion are not the same thing, as Ryan clearly shows.

-Mark Brunson

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